Legislation Introduced to Extend IV-E Waivers

Recently Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the bipartisan State Flexibility for Family First Transitions Act, which would allow states with existing Title-E waivers to extend those waivers for two years. The goal of this legislation is to help states transition to successful Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) implementation. If this bill does not pass, existing waivers would expire Sept. 30, 2019. Learn more about the bill online. (Source:  National Child Abuse Coalition)  

Update on Status of Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse

As the calendar rolled to 2019, Jerry Milner, associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families, issued an update letter to state child welfare directors providing an update on the Prevention Services Clearinghouse. The Children’s Bureau and Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation considered more than 360 comments from a previous request. Milner shared that the clearinghouse will continue to identify and prioritize additional services and programs on a rolling basis. They hope to, “add to the body of title IV-E reimbursable services as expeditiously as possible.” They expect to issue a handbook of standards and procedures in early April 2019. They also provided a timeline for events that have occurred and future estimated dates for additional guidance. Most notably, a webinar addressing clearinghouse standards is expected in April and a release of program and service ratings is expected in May. Additional programs and services selected for review will be released later this spring or summer.  

Government Shutdown

During the shutdown, appropriations for some federal agencies and programs lapsed, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), immigration programs (including E-Verify and EB-5 regional investor visas), and many others.

As it currently stands, this is the longest shutdown in modern political history. It is unclear how long it will take to resolve the debate. There have been numerous meetings at the White House with congressional leaders over the past week, but no deals have been struck.  

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is currently unable to renew federal contracts for over 1,100 Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance properties housing thousands of renters. Additional contracts are expected to expire later this month and in February, and HUD does not have the resources to renew contracts during the government shutdown. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has created a helpful fact sheet that details other effects of the shutdown on housing programs. 

If the government doesn’t reopen by February, hundreds of thousands of rural families who receive rent subsidies through the Department of Agriculture (USDA) could be in jeopardy of losing their housing. According to a Washington Post article, many of these individuals are seniors and have disabilities.  

Most domestic violence shelters pay their expenses out of pocket and are repaid with federal funds at the end of each month for staff, rent, and other expenses. Shelters are struggling to make these payments, as many don’t have much in cash reserves. The primary source of funding for domestic violence shelters, VAWA and the Victims of Crime Act Fund, and some HUD funding are all impacted by the shutdown. According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, if shelters don’t have the funds they need to stay open, they will need to lay off staff or close temporarily.  

Important Notice for SNAP Participants

Though the USDA has the budget authority to fund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for February, we are concerned that participants are not aware that they will be receiving their February disbursement early and will need to make it last.

We need your help. Health and human services agencies, community-based nonprofits, local food pantries, and other advocates need to advise SNAP participants who receive their February SNAP benefits on or around Jan. 20 that the issuance is not a bonus, but an early issuance of their February benefits. SNAP participants should be careful to budget their SNAP benefits to last them through the entire month of February. (Source: The American Public Human Services Association)  

House Passed Bill to Extend TANF

Currently, funds are not available for the TANF program. The majority of the recipients of these funds are children. In the interim, states must cover the cost and states are doing their best to pull together unspent federal funds. Earlier this week, the House of Representatives approved an extension of the TANF program through June 30, 2019. We are hopeful that the Senate will take up consideration of the bill soon, though much is still uncertain. (Source: First Five Years Fund)  

Spotlight on Key Senate Committee Chairs

The following chairs are folks to watch in the 116th Congress. They will have jurisdiction over the key policy issues Alliance members care about. Last week, we focused on the House of Representatives. This week we focus on the Senate. 

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) – Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

Bio: Born in Birmingham, the son of a steelworker, Richard Shelby earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Alabama. He used to work as a private attorney, a city prosecutor, a U.S. magistrate, and a special assistant state attorney general. Shelby used to be a conservative Democrat, serving eight years in the state Senate. He ran for Congress in 1978 and won. In 1986, he ran for the U.S. Senate and won. He was reelected in 1992 and switched parties in 1994, after Republicans took control of the Senate in the midterms. He recently took over as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. In 2018 he moved the Labor HHS Education bill through the process on time for the first time in many years through bipartisan deal making.

Appropriations Interests in Human Services:

  • STEM education
  • Disaster assistance
  • Job training programs

Potential Issues to be Considered by Committee in 2019: Each year, the committee is responsible for passing the annual budget. Chairman Shelby will be charged with leading negotiations on the annual appropriations bills in FY20 and FY21, which includes all federal domestic programs including programs under HUD, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and others.  

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP)

Bio: Lamar Alexander grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, which is near Knoxville. He attended Vanderbilt University and NYU for law school. He served as a legislative assistant to Tennessee Republican Howard Baker in the U.S. Senate. He was elected governor in 1978 and spent three years as president of the University of Tennessee and two years as President George H.W. Bush’s education secretary. He won his Senate seat in 2003 and plans to retire after 2020. (Little Known Fact: His wife and Bob Keeshan helped cofound the child care company Bright Horizons Family Solutions)

Policy Interests in Human Services:

  • Education
  • Teacher pay
  • Cancer research
  • Substance abuse/opioids
  • Foster care/child welfare (his wife is very active)

Potential Issues to be Considered by Committee in 2019: Higher Education Act reauthorization including college affordability; reducing health care costs; addressing the opioid crisis  

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee

Bio: Chuck Grassley grew up on a family farm in north central Iowa. He received his doctorate in political science from University of Iowa. He taught school part time and worked as a sheet metal worker and then on the factory assembly line. At age 22, he ran for state House and lost, but tried again several years later and won. He won a seat in the U.S. House in 1974 and won a seat in U.S. Senate in 1980. He still takes an active role on his family farm. He is known as a very serious member of Congress and has held many leadership positions including on the Judiciary and Finance Committees. He is very focused on government agency accountability and transparency.

Policy Interests in Human Services:

  • Immigration reform
  • Rural communities
  • Foster youth
  • FFPSA implementation
  • Substance abuse/opioids
  • Child abuse prevention
  • Adoption tax credit

Potential Issues to be Considered by Committee in 2019: Trade deals with Canada and Mexico; agriculture tariffs; addressing high prescription drug costs; oversight on new tax law implementation; health care legislation; FFPSA oversight    

Recently Proposed or Watched Legislation

The Alliance watches specific bills at member request and new bills we find to be sector relevant.  As we head into the 116th Congress, if you have a position or interest in any specific bills please email the Alliance Public Policy Office or call the Alliance Policy Hotline at 414-359-6626 and leave a message with your name and organization.  

View more public policy news  and sign up for the weekly Alliance Policy Radar online.

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